Suffolk-based manufacturer uses targeted UKTI research to clean up overseas

Cleaning product company Challs International uses UKTI’s OMIS service to research overseas markets.

Challs International is an SME manufacturer of cleaning products that currently supplies all major UK supermarkets from its base near Ipswich. As the company seeks to expand its international presence, it has used UKTI’s Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) to provide entry level support on numerous occasions.

“OMIS reports enable companies to gain reliable insights into overseas markets, by drawing on the knowledge of UKTI trade specialists based in British Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions around the world,” explains UKTI trade adviser Roger Goetze. “They provide bespoke feedback that helps companies to conduct market research, identify their best route to market and find potential clients or agents. Companies can also use Embassy facilities to add kudos to their introductory meetings and launch events.”

Graham Burchell, Managing Director of Challs, values the support that an OMIS provides: “We’ve used UKTI’s OMIS service at least eleven times now. If you are going in completely cold to a country or region the OMIS gives you a starting point into that market. You can be confident that, when you visit the country for the first time, the appointments that UKTI has arranged on your behalf will be relevant and a useful step in the right direction. Also, we can sometimes send samples to the Embassy that we can’t always take on an aeroplane.”

Challs is adept at using OMIS to double-check the accuracy of its own background research. Roger Goetze explains, “The company knows exactly what it wants to find out. On each occasion their brief will give UKTI a clear picture of the picture that they want to have confirmed or challenged. They will say: ‘we think this is the size of the market, and the type. We think this is how we should position and price our product. Would you agree?’”

“As you would expect, we’ve learnt over time how to fine-tune our brief to ensure that the results of each OMIS deliver maximum benefit for our company,” says Graham. “For example, it can be as important to specify what you don’t want to find out as it is to say what you do need to learn. If we are looking for overseas distributors for our range of branded cleaning products for supermarkets, we don’t want to receive leads for distributors of janitorial supplies; we need to source distributors with direct experience of grocery retailing. We’ll usually run our brief past Roger, to get a second opinion, before we submit it. Often, the UKTI office in the target country will also give us a call to talk through our requirements before they begin to fulfil the brief.”

OMIS results vary significantly, depending on the needs of the commissioning company and the target countries. “Our OMIS reports about the Middle East gave us some excellent insights into the region,” says Graham. “For example, we discovered that there are very few distributors in Oman. The Consulate also advised us about visas and the best way to travel between borders in the region. More broadly, we found out that Middle Eastern countries are receptive to English packaging and to branded products from English companies. We also learned appropriate business etiquette for the region.”

Market Visit Support (MVS) funding from UKTI enabled Challs to research several countries simultaneously. “As an SME we don’t have deep pockets,” says Graham. “While grant funding was not the key issue for us, it did help to speed up our progress. It was advantageous to be able to visit several countries in the Middle East within the same trip, and without MVS funding that may not have been possible.”

Sometimes an OMIS will help to clarify that a particular region isn’t an appropriate target market. Graham explains, “We chose to commission an OMIS for Poland because our initial research indicated that this could be a good option for Challs: it’s an up and coming market that hasn’t suffered from recession, and it isn’t too far from the UK. However, the OMIS report and our subsequent visit revealed that the consumer market for cleaning products in Poland is surprisingly well developed, with huge international competition for limited shelf space. We subsequently decided that it wasn’t the right time for us to enter this market, and we’ve moved Poland down our list of priorities. The OMIS was productive because it helped us to make the right decision for the business.”

“Challs is a great example of a company that has made strategic use of the OMIS service when assessing the potential of new markets overseas,” says Roger. “The service provides warm contacts that companies can build on as they develop their network; it saves them time and money while also delivering high quality research. There is no substitute for visiting the market that you are interested in, but the Overseas Market Introduction Service provides a reliable and effective starting point.”


Challs International


If you are based in the East of England region and are interested in developing your business overseas please contact:

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